Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics will be released very soon! In my newest book I explore twelve monks and mystics and how each of them invites us into a deeper connection to our own inner multitude, sometimes described as archetypal energies.
Last week I shared an excerpt from my reflection on the Sovereign. This week I share from perhaps my favorite archetype of all, that of the Orphan, the tender and vulnerable part of ourselves we so often push away:
The Orphan appears across myths, fairy tales, and popular culture, think of little Orphan Annie, Cinderella, Dorothy, and Harry Potter. The Genesis story of the Garden of Eden is a primal orphan myth explaining where our experience of being exiles arises. Jesus experiences utter abandonment on the cross.
The fundamental experience of the Orphan is abandonment, feeling like an exile, and longing for an experience of being at home. The Orphan archetype in each of us is activated by all the experiences in which the child in us feels abandoned, betrayed, victimized, neglected, or disillusioned. We are all orphaned in one way or another simply because we are raised by parents with their own wounds and somewhere along the way they have orphaned us – we each have an inner orphan.
While our first instinct may be to run when our inner feelings of need and loneliness arise, the central task of the Orphan is to feel this pain of unmothered child. Ideally we do this hard work from a place of strength and feeling good rather than waiting until we feel awful. We are invited to face our experiences of pain and disillusionment. The Orphan calls us to wake up, let go of our illusions, and face painful realities. We all have losses and catastrophes, we all carry grief that has gone unmourned, that has been pushed away.
The Orphan can also help to crack open our intuition and empathy. Those who suffer much in conscious ways are often able to offer that as gift back to the community. The Orphan also invites us into an interdependence with others as we realize that we are all wounded in some way.
Ultimately the Orphan learns that it is the source of power to face one’s victimization and limitations and to feel fully the pain caused by them. Conscious suffering is the gateway to our own spiritual awakening and maturity. Doing so frees us up to work together to create a better world. The healing begins when we really feel the pain and reality of our orphaning experiences and it progresses to recognizing how we have denied part of ourselves. The gift of Orphan is to connect to our own wounding and to find safe spaces to share it and to bond and create relationships of mutual love and care.
How might you welcome in your own inner Orphan and let her or him know that vulnerability and tenderness are invited to make a place inside.
Stop by Patheos for the next in my series of reflections on Practicing Resurrection and the return to love.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner